The United States over the past five decades has had dangerous experiences with “war scares.” This demands an assessment of options for reducing the possibility of a war scare that could result in an actual war, particularly in the nuclear age. U.S. and allied military exercises are particularly dangerous because military doctrine, particularly in communist states, argues that military exercises are an effective way of hiding an actual first strike operation.
It was known as early as 2006 that additional troops would not make a difference; that the Afghan government would collapse without U.S. support; and that the Afghan government was a criminal syndicate. In private meetings with Obama, Biden dismissed the intelligence community’s view of the Taliban as nothing more than a “new al Qaeda.” It wrongly predicted that the Taliban would project a “global jihadist ideology.” The fact that Biden was so right 12 years ago probably explains his stubbornness in standing up to the Pentagon, which was still arguing for a “conditions based withdrawal.” Biden was not going to allow the Pentagon to pursue its “forever war” any longer.
It would be easy to blame Donald Trump for the disarray in the transatlantic alliance, but twenty-five years of American exceptionalism is the real culprit. The aggressive expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Clinton and Bush administrations over the objections of our West European allies began a period of discontinuity that still exists. Bush deepened the disarray in 2002 with his “axis of evil” speech that set the stage for the invasion of Iraq. Bush and Barack Obama considered Afghanistan the “good war,” which brought two full decades of chaos throughout Southwest Asia.
From 2001 to 2015, the number of U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan exceeded 100,000, although four secretaries of defense (Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel) conceded privately that the war was not winnable and that no strategy would alter our glide path to defeat.